Team canvas adventure

Readying your team for the task ahead

There are many different ways to engage teams in discussing shared goals, expectations, threats, weaknesses and the way ahead. The hot air balloon, the original Team canvas and Team canvas bus for example. But also this one, the Team canvas adventure. Again, a metaphorical method that aims to identify strengths, weaknesses, external forces, stakeholders and goals all in a simple and well-structured process. The exercise is often best done at the start of a session, followed up with deeper, more creative exercises. Also, the exercise works well as a way to combine different exercises. E.g. have a purpose exercise, followed by a team culture exercise and combine these (and others) into one overarching visualization.

The charm is that you’re not relying on another dull matrix (like the SWOT) but actually going through an imaginary journey that engages us to think outside of our typical thought patterns. This will already help to take away some reservations with participants who are dreading another tireless SWOT analysis exercise (or other similar exercises). It is an interesting alternative (like the bus and hot air balloon as well) to the more analytical/rational original team canvas.

Just gather all participants and collect their input step-by-step in the process.

Summit

Purpose

Time frame

Group size

Small

Facilitation level

Comfort level participants

Materials needed

Credits

IBC change & development

Team canvas
Remote team canvas adventure

Team canvas adventure in remote meetings

The team canvas adventure is also really easy to implement in a remote meeting session. With the right collaboration/white boarding tool (e.g. Miro, Mural), it is easy to collect the ideas and remarks for each step of the way. It only requires small adjustments compared to the steps below.

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Five Structural Elements for the Team canvas adventure

The Team canvas adventure is a very straightforward exercise and pretty much automatically leads you through the different steps. The key thing to look for as a facilitator is to not let discussions get out of hand and help refocus on the key obejctive: getting an overview of strengths, weaknesses, etc rather than fully discuss them in detail.

Five structural elements

How to read the instructions

To bring some structure to tools and excercises, I borrowed the “five structural elements” from Liberating Structures. It is an easy and structured way to describe the different dimensions of an exercise.

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Invitation

Invite people to come over to a wall/whiteboard where you have prepared a sketch of the Team canvas adventure with the adventurers, thinking cloud, road, mountains, and summit. This will allow you to invite the group to join you in this adventure that is set towards this summit.

There is room here to add a personal story as a facilitator. I usually tell a bit about one of my multi-day hikes, like my summit of Mount Kilimanjaro or my Jordan Trail (Jordan desert) or Arctic Circle Trail (Greenland) thru-hikes.

Discourage long discussions and make clear a lot of input is preferred in this stage of the session.

What you can also do, is to have multiple smaller exercises (e.g. a purpose and culture exercise) and eventually bring them together onto the central visualization.

How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed

It is easiest to work with a large sketch or depiction of the adventure (adventurers, thinking cloud, road, mountains and summit) that everyone can see and add to. Making it large also will ensure you can use it as an ‘anchor point’ or source of inspiration throughout the rest of the session. Either use a large visual on the wall, use a beamer/screen to project it and/or use different flipover papers to create a large depiction.

Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation

Have a timekeeper stop the time of around 7 minutes per step and go through the method step by step. Or, use a simple 1-2-4-all structure for simple brainstorming.

  1. Summit: The tangible/intangible outcomes/goals of this team/project. A tangible outcome would be a specific end result (e.g. “customer retention”, “validated app”), an intangible outcome would be more of a feeling (e.g. “all customers feels they were heard and respected”).
  2. Team (or: team and stakeholders): You can either use the three figures to describe the team or you can use the figure on the left (with the compass) for the team and the others to describe your stakeholders. In describing the team, it would make sense to talk about team values, culture, etcetera. You can even use a simple- or full empathy map for either the team or the stakeholders.
  3. Expectations: What expectations do we have as a team and/or organization (including the stakeholders)? You can consider using the stinky/smelly fish structure to get negative expectations.
  4. The things that keep us grounded / solid ground: What are the things we can build on as a team? What are the prerequisites (design anchors, certainties, restrictions) of the project?
  5. The road ahead / obstacles: Use this to roughly describe the steps towards the end goal, the summit, and/or the most notable obstacles along the way.
How Groups Are Configured

No special configuration needed.

Make sure people are able to see each the Team canvas adventure mapping. A large wall or whiteboard, the floor, or a surface you can beam on is usually best.

How Participation Is Distributed

Everyone can add ideas, either by adding own post-its (and discuss later) or by having people suggest their ideas and have one central ‘writer’ who adds the ideas/post-its to the overall image. Easiest is usually to have the participants stand in front of the whiteboard with post-it’s and pens to gather their input. Whenever someone has a post-it to share they should go up to the whiteboard and share it briefly with the group.

Alternatively, use a 1-2-4-all structure to generate ideas.

Additional tips and pointers
  • Make sure you don’t end up in long conversations but collect a lot of input from all participants.

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Polle de Maagt

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